Daily Video

May 27, 2020

Economic role of government now and during Great Depression



Directions: Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript, click here.



As U.S. businesses prepare for gradual reopenings, the number of Americans filing for unemployment seems to be leveling off.

  • 2.4 million people filed unemployment claims this past week, which is actually a significant drop from the surge in March. Still, the Labor Department says more than 38 million people sought jobless benefits in the past nine weeks.
  • As President Donald Trump departed for Michigan to tour a Ford factory now making ventilators, he insisted that economic recovery is imminent. “Relax, we’re doing great, it all will pass,” Trump said.
  • However, some economists and Trump administration officials have said that Depression-era levels of unemployment could set the U.S. economy back for years to come.” (See extension activity below for comparisons between the current economic crisis and the Great Depression.)


Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: What role should the U.S. government play in assisting the economy during the pandemic?
  2. How have different countries responded to COVID-19?
  3. What roles has the U.S. government played historically during crisis such as depressions and pandemics?
  4. Media Literacy: If time allows, watch NewsHour’s Making Sen$e segment How the pandemic has pushed U.S. retail toward the brink of collapse (includes transcript). This segment features several personal stories by employees who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. What strengths do these voices bring to a news story? Do you think it is important for news outlets to report on these stories? Explain.


Extension activity:

Comparisons between current economic crisis due to COVID and the Great Depression

Directions: Read the excerpt from NewsHour’s article Could the coronavirus reshape America’s social safety net? and answer the questions below.

  • Why do you think the Federal government’s response was called a “New Deal”?
  • What are the key differences between the circumstances surrounding the Great Depression and the economic crisis taking place due to coronavirus? What do you think are similarities?
  • How can the government help people at this time? Explain.

The initial crisis that led to the Great Depression — the stock market crash of 1929 — unfolded with astonishing speed, just as the coronavirus has spread across the U.S. seemingly overnight.

But by the time Roosevelt took office in 1933, the country had experienced three-plus years of severe economic suffering under President Herbert Hoover. Most Americans were angry with the ruling class for failing to turn the economy around, and frustrated that a promising new era of prosperity after World War I had somehow come crashing down.


Today’s Daily News Story was written by Yareni Murillo, a senior at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, with EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio.


For monthly updates containing teacher resources on Election 2020, click here. Sign up for short education highlights from the PBS NewsHour here.


If you are making plans for distance learning, take a look at our list of PBS resources that covers a variety of subjects for middle and high school students. 

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